New Delhi [India]: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday announced free ride for women in all Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) buses, cluster buses and Delhi Metro trains, a decision that comes close on the heels of the severe drubbing his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)’s suffered in the Lok Sabha polls and Delhi Assembly elections due early next year.
He said those women who could afford to pay need not enjoy the subsidy.
“Public transport has been considered as safest for women. Keeping women’s safety in mind, free travel will be ensured for women in all DTC buses, cluster buses, and metro. The decision has been taken so that women in large numbers can use public transport. Due to high fares, women cannot use public transport,” he told a press conference.
“We will have a provision that the subsidy will not be imposed. Many women, who can afford, do not have to take the subsidy. They can buy tickets in buses and metros. We encourage those, who can afford, to buy tickets and not take subsidy so that others could benefit,” he said.
The Chief Minister said he has given one week’s time to officials to make a detailed proposal – for both DTC and metro – on how and when can this be implemented. “We are making an effort to start this scheme within 2-3 months.”
The decision comes ten days after the ruling AAP suffered defeat and lost all seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi in the Lok Sabha elections. The party contested 40 seats across nine states and Union Territories and could win only one seat- Sangrur in Punjab.
However, Kejriwal rejected criticisms that it was a poll gimmick saying that there is no good time for rolling out welfare schemes.
The Chief Minister said that he does not need the Centre’s permission in the free-ride scheme for women.
“We do not need the Centre’s permission. The Delhi government will pay for this. The detailed expenditure for the scheme has been asked. If this scheme rolls out in September then around Rs 700-800 crores expenditure is estimated for the rest of year,” he said.
“Initially, we had told the Centre not to increase the prices of tickets, they did not agree. We had told them that we have 50-50 partnership, let’s give 50-50 subsidy on raised prices, they did not agree. We do not need permission as we are not increasing fares but are giving subsidy only. The Delhi government will bear the fare this scheme. We need not take approval for this,” Kejriwal said.
The Chief Minister dismissed apprehensions of congestion as a result of free rides.
“The projected ridership of metro was 40 lakh after completion of Phase III. In March 2017, 28 lakh commuters used to take the metro after that fares were increased. Now, around 25 lakh people take the transit daily. So, the capacity of Delhi Metro is 40 lakh and only 25 lakh are traveling,” Kejriwal said.
“Around 8 lakh women use the metro. And if there is 10 per cent increase in women ridership in the metro. So, only one lakh additional commuters will be there. Clearly, there will be no congestion,” he said.
Kejriwal also announced that nearly 3 lakh CCTV cameras will be installed across the national capital.
“In Delhi, women feel unsafe and their security is Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)’s top priority. The proposal and tender of 1.5 lakh CCTV cameras installations have been passed. The survey of 60,000 cameras has been completed. From June 8, the work of cameras installation will begin.
“The proposal of 1,40,000 cameras will be passed this month. 2,80,000 CCTV cameras will be installed across Delhi,” he said.
The Chief Minister also said that 3,000 buses will be inducted within a span of 12 months.
Speaking on the free-ride scheme, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said, “Public transport is an investment to the welfare of people. If this decision results in increasing women safety then it is a big decision.”
Kejriwal also asked people to send their suggestions regarding the implementation of the scheme at Delhiwomensafety@gmail.com.